OROVILLE – The city of Oroville is looking for people who like history, enjoy meeting the public and have a few hours to spare every month to serve as docents at its five museums, all located within approximately one mile of each other in the historical downtown district.
The city’s museums include the C.F. Lott Historical Home, Oroville Chinese Temple, Feather River Nature Center and Native Plant Park, Bolt’s Antique Tool Museum and Pioneer History Museum.
“What makes Oroville city museums unique is that they are all staffed by museum docent volunteers. It is the dedicated volunteers who keep the museums open to the public, providing exhibits, tours and programs to locals, school children and visitors,” said Heather McCafferty, cultural facilities curator.
While there are currently about 45 docents, a “core group” of about 20 are “keeping the doors open. The others only work special events or projects,” said McCafferty.
Currently the museums are open just one or two days a week for limited hours with one or two docents working. McCafferty said is there were about 15 to 20 more active docents it would help expand the museums’ hours.
The Museum Docent Association was started in 1984. Docent volunteers are asked to give four hours of service twice a month. Participants act as tour guides and interact with visitors, staff the gift shops, update records, assist with special projects like cataloging and caring for artifacts and rotating displayed artifacts with, “the goal of cultivating connections and sparking curiosity and appreciation of local heritage,” said McCafferty.
Docents also help with community events and programs including the Lott Home Mistletoe Party, Pioneer Christmas at the Pioneer Museum, the Feather River Nature Park’s Salmon Soiree at the annual Salmon Festival, the Chinese New Year Celebration held at the Chinese Temple and the Feather Fiesta Day Craft Faire at the Lott Home.
“I’ve noticed with all the docents I’ve met that being a docent brings meaning and purpose to their lives. They develop friendships and have the opportunity to explore their own interests and delve into history. Depending on their interest, they can select the museum where they want to volunteer,” said McCafferty.
There are two docent volunteer programs, one for youth in the 9th through 12th grade, ages 14 to 17, and one for adults 18 and older. Docents do not have to live within the city limits.
“The age range of our docents currently is early 20s through 80s with bulk of them being older, retired adults. We are just now starting up our youth program again. Being a docent is a real opportunity for engagement, creativity and meaning for all ages,” said McCafferty.
Those who are interested in learning more about becoming a docent may visit the City of Oroville Museum Docent Association table at the Salmon Festival, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., September 24. McCafferty and museum docents will be there to answer questions and applications will be available.
“Being a docent is to be of service to the community and help to preserve and share the history of our region. The docents help to share the stories and give context to the artifacts in the museums and connect visitors and the next generation with Oroville’s unique heritage. Without the docents, these stories don’t get told, said McCafferty.
Information about and applications for the docent program are also available online at https://www.cityoforoville.org/services/parks-trees-department/docent-information and for the teen docent program at https://www.cityoforoville.org/services/parks-trees-department/docent-information/teen-docent-program. McCafferty is also available to answer questions at 530-538-2497.